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How to Apply for a Food Service License

  • Expires: Temporary have a 14 day duration and may be renewed April 30 each year. All other durations are set by local health departments.
  • Fee: $73 for Temporary, all other fees set by local health department
  • Contact: MDARD Central Licensing Unit, 517-284-5771
  • Forms:

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Food Service Establishment?

  • Temporary -temporary food service establishment is a food service establishment which operates at a fixed location for a temporary period of time not to exceed two weeks.
  • Fixed -fixed food service establishment is a facility that is a permanent location. This is an operation where food or drink is prepared for direct consumption through service on the premises or elsewhere, and any other eating or drinking establishment or operation where food is served or provided for the public.
  • Mobile - A mobile food service establishment means a food service establishment operating from a vehicle, trailer, or watercraft which is not fully equipped for full food service and, therefore, must return to a licensed commissary at least once every 24 hours for servicing and maintenance. The commissary license number must be recorded in the appropriate place in order for a mobile service establishment license application to be processed.
  • STFU - A special transitory food unit (STFU) is a temporary food establishment licensed to operate throughout the state without the 14-day limits or a mobile food establishment that is not required to return to a commissary.

Where are Food Service licenses obtained?

Food Service establishments are licensed via local health departments who are empowered to set their own fees. For most questions licenses for these establishments, you should contact your local health department.

What laws govern Food Service Licensing?

The Michigan Food Law and the Michigan Modified FDA Food Code are the two documents that govern the licensing of food service establishments within the State of Michigan.

The FDA Food Code provides model standards for retail food establishments (restaurants, grocery, and convenience stores) which promote uniformity across state lines and also reflects initiatives and strategies recommended by national food safety organizations such as the Conference for Food Protection, etc.

The Michigan Food Law is the state statute that gives the model Food Code the force and effect of law. It also provides the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) essential powers, authorities, duties, and penalties to administer the program. In addition, since the Michigan Food Law regulates all food establishments in Michigan, it provides standards and requirements for wholesale facilities and processing plants not covered by the Food Code.

How can establishments get copies of the new laws and regulations?

Copies of the two may be obtained by downloading them from the MDARD website. Copies of the Food Code may also be downloaded from the FDA website . MDARD prints a limited number of copies of the Food Law, Food Code, and adopted federal regulations. Single copies are available free upon request. Newly licensed retail firms receive a copy of the Food Code with their license application or first license.

How do I obtain an application to apply for a Food Service license?

New establishments, those experiencing a change of ownership, establishments which have undergone a change in physical location or those desiring a change of license type may download an application from the MDARD website or contact your local health department. Previously licensed facilities will receive a pre-printed renewal application form each spring.

Do I require a plan review prior to licensing?

Fixed establishments, mobile units, or special transitory food units, if new, require a plan review prior to licensing. Plan reviews can be requested through the local health department. Temporary Food Service licenses require an on-site inspection by local health departments once the establishment is ready to operate so applications should be made at least 30 days prior to the event. Local health departments will issue the actual operating permit at the time of inspection.

What licenses are available and what fees are associated with them? 

  • E.1 Food Service Establishment (Fee set by local health department )
    A place in which food or drink is prepared for direct consumption through service on the premises or elsewhere and any other eating or drinking establishment or operation where food is served or provided for the public. Examples include a fixed restaurant, coffee shop, cafeteria, short order cafe, luncheonette, grill, tearoom, sandwich shop, soda fountain, tavern, bar, cocktail lounge, nightclub, drive-in, industrial feeding establishment, private organization serving the public, rental hall, catering kitchen, delicatessen, theater, commissary, or similar business. 
  • E.2 Mobile Food Service Establishment (Fee set by local health department )
    A catering truck or other food service establishment operating from a vehicle or watercraft that returns to a licensed commissary for servicing and maintenance at least once every 24 hours.
  • E.3 Temporary Food Service (Fee set by local health department )
    A food service establishment which operates at a fixed location for a temporary period not to exceed 14 consecutive days. Example: concession stands at festivals and events.
  • E.4 Mobile Food Establishment Commissary (Fee set by local health department )
    An operation that is capable of servicing a mobile catering food establishment. 

What about Fair Licensing and STFUs?

The Michigan Food Law changes how fair concessions are licensed. In the past, one license was needed to operate at multiple state or county fairs. Now, concessionaires must obtain a temporary license for each fair and notify MDARD prior to operating at each site.

An option exists for concessionaires who go to many fairs. It is called a Special Transitory Food Unit (STFU) license. Special requirements to obtain this license include submitting and following standard operating procedures and obtaining a plan review. The license fee is set at $135 whether it is obtained from a local health department or MDARD. Plan review fees vary among local health departments and MDARD's plan review fee is $197. The STFU license allows the operator to travel to any fair, festival or event throughout the state under one license. The operator must also obtain at least two fee inspections during the year from MDARD or a local agency. The fee is $90 per inspection.

More on Food Service Licensing can be found in our application guide.